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Dita Navigator: Form Meets Function

Disclaimer: I formally thank Ash from Project Perfection/ Dita Audio for generously providing me with Navigator in exchange for an honest review. On behalf of the team at the Headphone List, we thank her for her generosity and trust in THL.

TLDR:

The Navigator embraces form, function and freshness. A pocket powerhouse, the Navigator is the quintessential grab-and-go DAC/AMP fit for everyday use and futureproofed for a lifetime.

Pros:

+ Thoughtful, EDC-centric design and aesthetic.

+ CNC-machined exterior is impervious to daily wear.

+ Satisfying, independent volume control with good travel and tactility.

+ Excellent size-to-power ratio, outputting 320mW into a 32ohm load.

+ Mild analogue colouration (forgiving) with dependable technical performance.

Cons:

– Included female USB-C to USB-C interconnect flimsy with non-existent strain reliefs.

– Integrated kickstand ‘stand’ area lacks width and depth for thicker phones.

– Lack of LED indicator to differentiate file types being streamed/played back.

Introduction

The Lion City (Singapore) is experiencing an audiophile renaissance as it stakes its transnational claim in this rapidly evolving audio hobby. There is rapacious hunger amongst the most devoted audio enthusiasts for products that deliver superior performance. It brings me indescribable joy to see my place of birth climb the summit-fi ladder.

As an early entrant to the Singaporean scene, Dita Audio has witnessed firsthand how the industry has waxed, waned and reinvented itself in the last decade. Opening its doors in 1971 as ‘Packagers Pte Ltd’, the veterans at Dita Audio share a combined experience of 30 years in metalwork and engineering.

Tempered by three decades of collective trial and error, Dita Audio’s reticence to participate in the churn-and-burn cycle of IEM releases silently expresses its company’s mission statement: less is more. To date, Dita Audio has only released over 8 products. From the lens of ‘Chi-Fi’, those are measly numbers.

Their latest IEM offering, Project M, was released 4 years after the flagship Dream XLS. Four-year sabbaticals are unheard of in a relentless industry that never shuts its eyes. Adopting the forbearance and fiery zeal of Japanese ‘shokunin’, Dita Audio remains wedded to a calculated approach to product releases. Whether this outlook is for better or worse is for the consumer to determine.

Today, I am reviewing the Navigator, a sister release accompanying Project M (read my review here). However, the Navigator is treading unchartered territory, being Dita’s foremost foray into audio peripherals. Marketed as an affordable dongle-DAC amp’ in EDC form, the Navigator features Dita’s unmistakable and distinct techno-futuristic theming. Priced at $299, the Navigator, like Project M, is priced affordably – a watershed deviation from the summit-fi prices its preceding products commanded.

The Navigator can be purchased directly from Dita Audio’s official website.

Technologies

Pocketable Durability

The Navigator is another blank canvas for the Dita team to flex its mastery of machinery and engineering. Cut with 5-Axis CNC and fabricated from the tough-as-nails and corrosion-resistant Series 6000 Aluminium, the Navigator is impregnable and impervious to the rigours of modern suburbia.

Built-in Kickstand

The Navigator conveniently integrates a collapsible kickstand on the underside of its chassis, letting you consume your favourite media at ease.

Small-but-mighty

Boasting dual FPGA-independent crystal oscillator clocks and an of Output: 340 mW into 32 ohms (on 4.4mm balanced), the Navigator is more than capable of driving power into high-impedance loads.

Unboxing:

The Navigator comes sealed in an elegant cardboard box with a blue-print styling reminiscent of Carl Pei’s Nothing brand – future-forward and sleek. Inside the box, the user will find the following accessory inclusions:

  • Dita Navigator (with default black lanyard attached to the unit)
  • Dita Navigator Warranty Card (in machined aluminium)
  • Orange Paracord
  • Female USB-C to USB-C cable

While the Navigator’s package is moderately minimal in comparison to Dita’s lavish offerings (the Perpetua or Dream XLS), every accessory is stylish and substantive for day-to-day use.

Design

The Navigator inherits the trademark design language defining its Dita siblings. The external Series 6000 Aluminium exterior is defined by bold, pronounced lines juxtaposed by stepped, sloping curves. The chassis itself consists of two machined pieces held tautly together by four visible trilobe screws.

The entire exterior is fully sanitised in gunmetal grey, with accompanying symbols and text printed with a Matrix-like typography in silver. The variety in machining techniques reflects Dita’s tacit know-how with computer-aided design.

Intriguingly, Navigator’s included blaze-orange paracord (in my mind) is a not-so-subtle nod to Singapore’s Carryology affiliation, a design blog specialising in the promotion of high-end soft goods (blaze-orange is their signature motif). Given Singapore’s predilection for micro-niches, a convergence between these two niches should come as no surprise.

The everyday carry (EDC) affiliation is further baked into the Navigator’s DNA, with a slide-out Philips screwdriver secured by a magnetic strip. This is truly the Victorinox of dongle DAC/Amps. Thankfully, the screwhead itself is attached magnetically and can be removed effortlessly. This is especially relieving for jet setters who are afraid the somewhat sharp screwhead would arouse the suspicions of an overzealous TSA officer.

More importantly, the full-metal-jacket design feels extremely robust and virtually indestructible – there is no way in god’s green earth that I’d be able to break this thing on the public commute. Its diminutive size is also pocket-friendly, making it a reliable companion for most, if not, all listening situations.

Overall, the Navigator’s make-up follows in the footsteps of its forebears successfully, exuding a premium feel unheard of at the $299 price point.

Usability

The integrated kickstand is a much-welcomed feature for consumers who frequently access cable streaming services on their smartphones, freeing their hands up to ‘eat and watch YouTube’. The kickstand itself features knurled/creased, vertical lines, making it easier to grip and hold onto. The hinges that hold the kickstand into place are solidly affixed, exhibiting no discernable lateral or vertical rattle.

Sadly, I struggled to fit my Nothing 2A smartphone on the integrated kickstand. The notch where one’s phone is meant to rest lacks the insertion depth and width for a stable fit. This is a problem specific to one’s phone of choice: YMMV.

The independent volume controls on the side boast a stamped-and-textured surface, allowing users to intuitively feel for the buttons without having to look. Button travel is excellent, providing solid haptics and travel.

The Navigator’s Achilles heel is the included female USB-C to USB-C interconnect. The provided cable is ultra-flexible and supple, making it easy for listeners to adjust the resting position of the Navigator to their liking. Sadly, the cable’s strain-reliefs and inherent thinness don’t inspire confidence in its overall longevity. I would personally exercise caution to avoid accidental tugs.

The Navigator’s universal compatibility between Windows, Android and Apple-powered devices works like a charm, allowing users to enjoy immediate playback without the need to install pre-requisite drivers. All users have to do is plug and play.

Save for the minor nitpicks, the Navigator is highly usable, with (almost) every touchpoint painstakingly designed to acknowledge unconscious grievances most users share.

On the next page, you will find details on Sound, Power, and Synergy.

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Picture of Kevin Goh

Kevin Goh

Raised in Southeast Asia’s largest portable-audio market, Kevin’s interest in high-end audio has grown alongside it as the industry flourishes. His pursuit of “perfect sound” began in the heydays of Jaben in Singapore at the age of just 10 years old. Kevin believes that we live in a golden age of readily accessible, quality audio.

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